AFD’s support for agroecology mainly focused on a subgroup of techniques called “direct seeding mulch-based cropping systems” (DMC). These are based on the absence of tilling, on permanent plant cover of the soil by plants (which provide a fertilizing action and protection against weeds, among other functions) and on crop rotation, in order to optimize fertilization and better control weeds and parasitic cycles.
The Agroecology Action Plan (AAP), which brings together the MAE, the FFEM, CIRAD and AFD was based on two main components : a group of actions for the adaptation and dissemination of DMC techniques in six countries (Cambodia, Cameroon, Laos, Madagascar, Tunisia and Vietnam), and cross-cutting support for coordination, supplementary technical support, as well as support in communication, exchange of experiences, capitalization, and knowledge transfer.
The objective of the evaluation was to assess the interventions supported by AFD within the framework of the AAP (which received 88.7 million euros in funding) and to present the factors of success and failure of the interventions in order to draw lessons from them and make recommendations for future interventions by AFD in the agricultural sector. This evaluation was conducted between July 2013 and May 2014 by a team from GRET.
The AAP combined research and development within a single program run together with the MAE and the FFEM. The program, which also included a cross-cutting dimension of reflection, search for guidance, and capitalization, was both ambitious and relevant.
While the program initiators can be described as visionary with regard to the idea and the principle of the program, its approach and the system implemented seem more questionable, in particular the choice to limit the support to a subset of specific techniques—the DMC. Dissemination of the DMC remained at a low level in the end, despite the mobilization of significant resources. In each country, the projects generated numerous technical references, representing a considerable gain in knowledge (confirmation of the positive role of the DMC in restoring fertility of degraded soils, in fighting erosion and in improving yields after a few years).
From 2007, internal developments at both AFD and CIRAD opened the way towards more fertile research initiatives and capitalization. The peasant farmers sometimes seized on technical elements that were promoted, in order to reincorporate them in their own way into their farming systems. These experiences generated many innovations with future potential. All these initiatives represent emerging capital upon which it certainly seems possible to build a third-generation program of undeniable interest and that will be both far-reaching and cross-cutting.
The recommendations of the evaluation are to :
- Develop a technical, methodological and operational synthesis of the whole program; this synthesis should target students, developers, decision-makers and non-specialized researchers.
- Continue the research-capitalization via a cross-cutting program with an expanded mandate covering three areas: all agroecological systems, capitalization of all modes of technological dissemination, and involvement in the field of agricultural policies.
- Internationalize the network of technical reference stations.
- Support more numerous actions on the ground, of a smaller and more flexible nature.
- Shift from a process of disseminating a model to a process of helping to guide change in peasant-farming practices.
- Outsource the management of the cross-cutting program.